Epilogue: A Crew Again
Dylan Hunt was furious when he entered the room to meet with Rhade.
He'd had to wait outside for a few minutes to get his sheer rage under control. When the adrenaline was rushing through his veins, he hadn't had time to process it all. But now that they were out of danger, Dylan had been given time to get well and truly angry.
Rhade's casual and controlled body language on the far side of the table only made him angrier. A man who had betrayed his nation, his friends, and galactic society, in general, had no right to be so composed. And yet, here was the faux smile. "Dylan, I'm surprised I'm still alive."
"So am I," said Dylan, sitting down. "Believe me, the rest of the crew would have been only too happy to kill you. Except for Rev, ironically."
"Rev?" asked Rhade, raising an eyebrow.
"The Magog," said Dylan. "He feels all life is sacred. Apparently, he is a Wayist. So much for the whole race is pure evil." He really should get to the point here, but a vindictive part of Dylan wanted to draw this out.
Rhade had basically ruined his life, after all. Not to mention the universe as a whole.
"Why am I here?" asked Rhade.
"Well, I've been catching up on current events while the repairs are made," said Dylan. He looked around the interrogation room's plain walls. "I thought I'd come to visit. You know, I always thought it was funny how they made interrogation rooms as stark and plain as possible. I mean, everything else in this ship is overdesigned to the point of wastefulness."
"Where are we?" asked Rhade.
"We're in the hanger of one of the few Commonwealth Stations left," said Dylan. "A little place currently under siege.
"It turns out we both lost.
"The Drago-Kazov Pride is running things these days if anyone is. But it's by no means a solid hold. Lots of factions and infighting going on, with little in the way of reliable help."
"So you mean to say that even if I were to join them, I'd end up a subordinate, or, more likely, dead," said Rhade.
"Yeah, that's about the shape of it," said Dylan. "Oh, and I forgot to mention. There are trillions of Magog massing at the borders of known space. Our projections indicate we're on the verge of a full-scale invasion. One worse than the one we got hit by before the Long Night.
"And it's completely your fault."
"There is a law of unintended consequences to consider," said Rhade. "One can't know the result of ones' actions until after you take it. But doing nothing is also an action that leads to stagnancy."
Dylan ignored him. He wasn't in the mood for a political debate. "Now, ordinarily, I'd court marshall you and never think about you again. Unfortunately, I've got a staffing problem. The new crew is just as likely to take orders from Beka or Tyr.
"I could ask Ortiz, the leader of the Commonwealth Remnants, for a larger crew. But I can't trust them either. Refractions are loyal, but she's never been much of a fighter. So, how do I prevent a mutiny?"
"You're offering me a position as your second in command?" surmised Rhade.
"No," said Dylan, astounded he had the gall to ask. "I'm offering you a position on my crew, period. More specifically, instructing the new members of the crew to operate Andromeda. Autopilot is well below peak efficiency."
"And you trust me, why?" asked Rhade.
"I trust that everyone on the crew hates you," said Dylan. "I've spent the last few days giving funeral rights to all the people you killed. Tyr might work with you if it benefitted him. But Tyr isn't going to sign on with someone everyone hates. The people I'm bringing on board from the Commonwealth Remnants don't know you. And they do know what you did.
"Our previous friendship, Rhade, is the only reason you're still alive."
"And my skills," noted Rhade.
Dylan laughed and felt mania welling up. "No, no, if it was just your skills we were talking about, I'd have spaced you immediately. You are singlehandedly responsible for the collapse of intergalactic society. Now, maybe some of the elements were there, to begin with.
"But you lit the powderkeg in the most destructive way possible.
"You were my friend. And I understand where you were coming from. And I think our friendship at some point meant something to you. So I am willing to give you another chance to fix this mess."
"And if I refuse?" asked Rhade.
Dylan shrugged. "Well, my original plan was to maroon you on some wasteland planet.
"But then Tyr pointed out that you know more about Andromeda's inner workings than I do. So you'd be able to barter your way into a position as a subordinate to Cuchulain and make him all the more dangerous.
"I've got an entire universe to try and stitch back together. The last thing I need is an archenemy who's hijacked Andromeda once before.
"So here's the new plan;" He drew out a force lance and charged it visibly, and Rhade flinched. "You accept my offer, or I shoot you right through the head here and now. Andromeda will clean up the blood, then I'll give you a proper burial. I'll even account for your requests regarding cremation before I space your remains. And then I'll forget you and write you out of history."
Rhade paused. "...You were never this ruthless before."
"My fiancee is dead, Rhade," said Dylan. "She died of old age after remarrying. I'll never see Sarah again because of you. I'll never retire on a pension or have kids and live happily ever after.
"Maybe that wasn't going to happen anyway. But I'm very, very angry right now.
"This isn't going to be one of those things where you become a reoccurring archenemy after I let you go. I'm not going to angst about how you tried to warn me or whatever. You're not going to cause trouble again and again and escape with snide commentary.
"I've got to fix the world you ruined.
"And if you get in my way, I'll kill you and everyone who takes your side. Are we clear?"
Rhade's eyes went wide, and he shuddered. For a moment, he seemed hesitant to speak. Finally, he managed. "...Perfectly, Captain."
"Great," said Dylan. "I'm glad we had this talk. Do you accept?"
"Yes," said Rhade, voice almost a squeak.
"Great," said Dylan with a smile as he stood up. He put away his force lance. "I'll ah, just run this by the other members of the crew and see if your continued existence is a dealbreaker. See, with the Commonwealth destroyed, I'm not as much of an authority figure. The legal system I drew authority from is gone.
"So I've got to lead by pure charisma. First among equals and all that."
And he walked out.
Dylan found the rest of the crew in the lounge. He'd have preferred to use the briefing room. But no one here was a professional soldier. And he needed to make them feel at home, so he'd had Andromeda break out some refreshments.
People needed some entertainment these days anyway.
"Well, I've finished negotiating with Rhade," said Dylan. "He's on board for now. But I'll let him sweat for a bit before I tell him you accepted the argument."
"Well, that was scary," said Harper, who had been watching on the viewscreen.
"Even heroic space captains have to be sometimes intimidating," said Dylan.
"Remind me never to piss you off," said Harper, eating some popcorn.
"Are certain we can control him?" asked Gerentex.
"Rhade doesn't have an incentive to betray us at the moment," said Tyr. "He's got no resources. And if he goes to Cuchulain, he's likely to be shot. The man is a bit too legendary for his own good."
"Besides, we're going to be keeping a close eye on him," said Dylan. "Andromeda will lock the doors to his quarters at night. And he'll never be allowed to go anywhere unescorted.
"Rev, would you take up this duty?"
"Of course, Captain," said Rev. "May I also speak to him of matters of faith?"
"Do as you want," said Dylan. "I don't really care."
"I don't see why we need him," said Beka. "Harper's figuring out Andromeda's circuits anyway."
"But our only alternative is killing him, Beka," said Trance.
"That's a feature, not a bug," said Beka.
"Rhade was responsible for drilling the soldiers and technicians," said Dylan. "He knows how everything operates at a much more in-depth level.
"If we do space him, I'm going to have to figure out a lot of the stuff on my own. Which could get us all killed."
"Weren't you the Captain?" asked Trance.
"I was..." Dylan sighed. "Look, I was a political appointee, okay. I got the position after years as a commando because I was due for promotion. There were a lot of other people on the list more qualified than I was; I just happened to know the right people.
"Rhade was one of those people.
"It doesn't mean I didn't take my job seriously. But I was smart enough to know what I didn't know, and I generally only gave orders when I had to. Rhade was the one who really kept everything running."
"You were a political appointee?" asked Beka incredulous.
"Yeah, it's something I'm ashamed of," said Hunt. "I had a lot of time to think about it during my stint as Captain."
"Well, I..." Beka paused.
"It doesn't really come across, boss," said Harper.
"Statistically speaking, Captain Hunt has an excellent record," said Andromeda, image appearing.
"Because of my crew," said Dylan. "I had the absolute best crew, the best officers, and the best warship AI. And nobody ever sent the Andromeda into serious firefights. All I had to do was not screw up, and I generally won automatically.
"As soon as I ran into something serious, we ended up plunged into a Black Hole."
"It is said that a wise man is his own worst critic," noted Rev.
"Can we not exchange platitudes until after we have determined our mission," said Tyr. "What exactly is our objective?"
"Long term?" asked Hunt. "Reunite the Commonwealth, universal peace, utopia."
"And short term?" asked Tyr.
"We're going to try and spread the word about the Magog Fleet and see if we can organize some kind of response," said Dylan. "While we're at it, we may as well work to try and make the universe a little safer.
"Apparently, there are some serious problems with pirates. Maybe we could hunt some of them and collect on bounties."
"We could also move cargo," said Beka. "I was looking over this place, and there are some major storage areas. If we ship things around, we could make a killing."
"I'd prefer not to become a merchant," admitted Dylan.
"And how do you plan to pay for your repairs?" asked Tyr. "By asking nicely? That's not going to work twice, not without a quid pro quo."
"Point taken," said Dylan. "We'll talk about it."
"Great, so now we get a starring role in Captain Hunt, the Legendary Journeys," said Harper, sipping a soda.
"I'd prefer the title Andromeda," laughed Dylan. "She and Tyr are the only reason anyone even tunes in."
"Thank you," said Andromeda.
Dylan Hunt had fallen a long way.
But he'd landed on his feet, and he had nowhere to go but up.